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Research Technical Report

Nursery Functions of U.S. West Coast Estuaries: The State of Knowledge for Juveniles of Focal Invertebrate and Fish Species

Hughes, B.B., M.D. Levey, J.A. Brown, M.C. Fountain, A.B. Carlisle, S.Y. Litvin, C.M. Greene, W.N. Heady and M.G. Gleason (December 2014)

The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. 168pp.


Estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet, and provide many key ecosystem functions, one of which is the provision of juvenile nursery habitat for fishes and invertebrates. Along the West Coast of the United States (California, Oregon and Washington; hereafter, West Coast), estuaries are known to be important nursery grounds for a few ecologically and economically important species, such as Dungeness crab, salmonids and flatfishes. Despite this documented importance for some species, the nursery function of estuaries for a multitude of species along the entire West Coast is poorly understood. This lack of understanding is of concern given that many estuaries are threatened by a suite of anthropogenic stressors and a potential loss of ecosystem function. This report expands upon previous efforts summarizing juvenile use of estuaries and synthesizes the existing geospatial data and information on the nursery role of estuaries for a group of ecologically and economically important fish and invertebrate species.

Full report can be downloaded at: